Top Women in Retail 2018: Paula Bennett, President and CEO, J.Jill
To see the full list of this year's Top Women in Retail honorees, click here.
What do you enjoy most about working in the retail industry?
I’m a strong believer that to be successful, you have to love what you do. Throughout my career, I’ve always loved combining the art and science of business, focusing on the customer and what’s relevant to her, and helping to create a positive experience in her life. At the same time, I love setting goals and measuring the results we deliver.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career, and how did you overcome it?
The biggest and most rewarding challenge has been to keep the teams focused on our customer, brand and business through ownership transitions. In early 2017, we celebrated our initial public offering at the New York Stock Exchange. The preparation and leadership of the IPO process to ready J.Jill for becoming a public company was both challenging and rewarding. There was a tremendous investment of time and resources to accomplish everything from enhancing systems and processes to organizing the road show and integrating new team members to successfully operate as a public company. Now that J.Jill is public, we’ve incorporated new activities and disciplines that continue to help grow our business and deliver for our customers and shareholders.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I would describe myself as collaborative with a results-oriented mind-set. I feel it’s important to have a clear vision and goals for your brand and business, to stay focused on your customer and what’s relevant to her, to be a strong communicator, and to empower your teams to drive the business forward. I also feel it’s important to stay curious, to continuously learn, and to build on those learnings every day in support of our shared goals.
What’s the best advice you ever received, and who gave you the advice?
During my undergraduate studies at The Ohio State University, Dr. William Davidson was the chairman of the marketing department and co-founder of Management Horizons, which became one of the most important retail consultancies of the 20th century. His vision bridged the worlds of academia and business. Dr. Davidson taught me the importance of building a strong brand, as well as developing a marketing strategy to drive both the brand and business. He taught me the true joy of combining the art and science of business, and reinforced how important it is as a business leader to both teach and learn, to stay curious and look ahead. His approach is more critical than ever today.
What one new retail technology or trend do you believe will have the biggest impact in 2018, and why?
In 2018 and beyond, I believe there will be an increased focus on optimizing the customer journey and offering a seamless and personalized customer experience across all channels. Retailers that are able to effectively collect and use customer data to create a loyal community, and deliver a more personalized experience whether in-store or online, will make great strides in 2018. This will require a commitment to providing the necessary information and investing in the technology essential for associates to deliver a great brand-right customer experience.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?
I enjoy the time I spend with my family, whether at home or traveling and exploring new places together.